Chicago's DIY Trunk Show (PHOTOS)

The Chicago Craft Mafia held its 7th annual DIY Trunk Show in Pulaski Park’s field house on Saturday. With 95 vendors participating, it was a hippy-hipster wet dream.

Rose Lannin of Wonder Wheel makes necklaces with antique train tokens as pendants.  Lannin buys the tokens for her pendants from collectors on ebay who view the tokens as worthless. The coins have no value  since “they’ve been handled by a million people”  but to Lannin, that makes them even more appealing. A number of tokens even have inscriptions explaining the metal used is from parts of the train, doubling the recycled value of her necklaces.

Christina Ward was hesitant at first to let me photograph her Creatures, and my subsequent conversation with her confirmed my suspicions about some trunk show goers coming to scope out the merchandise so they can make their own at home. Ward explained why she is protective of her creations since her craft is like a “full-time job in hours, but not in pay”. Besides stuffed animals, Ward also makes quilts and rugs, anything to “get her creative ya-ya’s out”.  This is Ward’s first year at the DIY Trunk Show.

Leah Parkhurst of Rustbelt Fiberwerks observed the shopping patterns of the day, saying “everyone’s been taking their time, making conscientious choices, which is a good thing”. Amanda Shell of Whirleygirl Designs seconded the notion, explaining that while people aren’t buying as much as she’d like, she has received “a lot of custom orders”.  This is Shell’s first experience at the DIY Trunk Show: “It’s been fun. I will definitely come back next year.” Amanda Shell is also a mural artist and has worked with Chicago Cares.

Amy Carlton, a DIY Trunk Show co-founder, believes that this year was their biggest turn-out.  Carlton explained via e-mail that the CCM receives a couple hundred applications for the 95 booth slots at the DIY Trunk Show, so each application faces a jury in order to ensure there isn’t too much of the same thing.

…we always reserve a percentage of all the spaces for crafters who are new to selling — DIY is some vendors’ first or second show. It’s really important to us to encourage new craft businesses and get more people involved in the handmade revolution. We keep our vendor fees low for the same reason.

-Amy Carlton

Laurie Freivogel of Kiku says the DIY trunk show is “one of my favorite shows” and this is her 6th time. “There’s a nice craft community in Chicago, people really know each other and support each other” Freivogel adds. Lydia Krupinski of Pierogi Picnic elaborated: “The DIY movement is intense and I’m excited to be a part of it. The Green movement and the crafters are codependent and intertwined and in the last 2 years it’s exploded here in Chicago.” Krupinski was also a DIY Trunk show virgin, but has been making her own clothes for “a long time”.

Toys by Steff Bomb, Dog Sweaters by Lucky Penny Hand Made, Edgewater Soaps by David Melis, Rings by Blue Lala, hats & knits by Enjolive + LBO Studio, Feltmates by Yoko Nomura, Reuseful Objects, prints, paper by laurageorge, artwork by Emily K Berman, Bobby-Jean of Kitty Grrlz, Christina Ward Creatures, artwork by, cloth products by Qylaar, knits by Girl With a Hook, Circa Ceramics

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Ripped your stockings? It's ok, you're in style!

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Image by le via Flickr

It is now officially stocking weather here in Chicago, and coincidently also my favorite time of the year.  I love my sheer tights, my colorful and wool  stockings and my thicker leggings, so naturally  I love the trend of ripped stockings. I don’t like to admit that I am taking fashion cues from the runway, Miley Cyrus or the Olsen Twins, but in this case I will make an exception.  I realize the popularity in ripped stockings is due to the grunge look making a comeback, but I like to (naively) think this trend is a response to the recession.  Before, I used to be ashamed of my rips and tears, dutifully using clean nail polish at the sight of the first run. My inability to buy new stockings embarrassed me (oh, financial woes!), but now, it’s a-ok.  I can walk around the city in style.

If you plan on ripping your stockings, I’d recommend using a safety pin or a needle and removing individual threads. There are a lot of DIY websites that suggest using a razor or scissors to make large horizontal slashes, but I find this unnecessary as large holes will eventually grow to an unruly size and become uncomfortable. The long runs  and small holes look is something I can get behind, however. I’d also recommend holding onto your clear nail polish and plugging up those runs and holes when they get close to your toes: there is nothing that makes me as miserable as having a stocking hole constrict the blood flow to my big toe.

We're all gonna DIY, hard.

photograph of a wagon train

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Basic skills our grandparents knew are making a comeback: woodworking and furniture repair, canning, scrap-booking, knitting, sewing,  crocheting, embroidery, gardening, glass blowing, jewelry making, ceramics; you name it.  Shared kitchens are “booming”, and craft fairs now get beer sponsors. There are more than forty community gardens in Chicago, with sixteen of those being vegetable gardens.

Everywhere I look, I see people saving money by “DIYing”. My neighbor is growing vegetables in the narrow stretch of dirt between our two buildings, and every other day I watch a squirrel steal a tomato or other newly sprouted item. A couple of my friends are feathering their own headbands (the “hottest accessory right now”), cardigans and dresses. I know another who is making her own make-up.  A youth in my neighborhood welds bikes. My roommate grew her own spices. I’ve been making my own cereal and trail mix and I have been working on making jam. Why should my relatives in Europe know how to make these things and not I?

I enrolled in a Chicago Park District sewing class this month, because I want to save money and in this digital age, I realized I know no real skill with my hands and this troubled me.  My first assignment is a quilt, which is very practical considering Chicago’s winters. I’m not actively “critiquing the modern consumerist culture”, I just can’t afford to participate in it, let alone “stimulate the economy”. For those unfamiliar with Chicago, the Chicago Park District is the oldest and largest park district in the US, with an annual budget of 385 million dollars. Besides sewing and sports, the CPD offers a variety of craft classes including stained glass and upholstery. Prices range from free to over $100 depending on the class type and what neighborhood the park is in.

With all the consignment and thrift stores in Chicago, it’s very hard for me to justify buying something “new”, the condition the secondhand clothes may be in is not enough of a deterrent when you compare prices. For those without access to sewing machines, problem solved: last Friday saw the opening of Chicago’s first D.I.Y. Store, called D.I.Y. Hards ( DIY is pronounced “die”). The shop sells custom and hand-crafted items, and provides space and equipment to help you make your own items.  D.I.Y. Hards charges $5 for 30 minutes on their sewing machines, and $7.50 for the same amount of time on the silk screen machine. If you need help, employees are standing by for an extra $4 ph. Sarah Vuong (the 23 year old co-owner, with her friend since high school)  says the DIY movement “is getting bigger and bigger”, and yeah, she wants to “change the way people consume.” Vuong and I talked briefly over the phone about that feeling of satisfaction you get when you are wear something no one else could possibly own. “People feel really proud when they make their own clothing” says Vuong, and I agree. I am already feeling pretty smug for taking this sewing class.

I can’t wait for the day when ladies flaunt their own craftsmanship over their store-bought designer bags.  At the very least, the older generations can stop calling us lazy.

Here’s a song to get you pumped up for your next DIY project (NSFW language included):

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